I’m not entirely sure how to put the past few days into words. It’s been an emotional roller coaster with incredible results.
Today we held a meeting with all the players and Gabriel said to them, “with great honor comes great responsibility.” When he said it, I immediately knew he was right. Basically, he hit the nail on the head with how I feel.
The definition of the word honor is to regard something or someone with great respect. I consider it an honor every time I get to step onto the pitch and coach. Once they are out on the field, these men are no longer refugees but athletes. Athletes who embody the meaning of the word honor and for that have earned my respect. Over the past two days of tryouts they have put in six hours of hard training each day, fought through sore muscles, cuts, and bruises, and have competed with each other not as enemies from different tribes, but as friends. They have overcome adversity by playing barefoot, on sand, and in the heat. For this they have my respect. And now, I have a great responsibility that comes with it.
My obligations toward these men is not a checklist of to-dos or even an outline of expectations given to me by others. The responsibility I feel is within myself. I feel a responsibility to let others know about this phenomenal group of men who at the moment call refugee camps in eastern Chad their home. I feel a responsibility to make these men really sense that they are part of the rest of the world. I feel this responsibility not because they are refugees, but because they are athletes — athletes who have fought hard and will continue to do so.
So as I head into the next few days of choosing the team and teaching them the game-plan for the ConIFA World Football Cup, I ask you, Toward whom do you feel a responsibility? and What does that responsibility mean to you?
“Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.”
― Noam Chomsky